Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For the Atlanta Braves, Next Year Is Going to Be Weird

Neo knows what life without Bobby Cox will be like.
When Neo gets on board the spaceship after being abducted by Morpheus and his pals, he sits in a chair and has to be "plugged in" to the computer program in which Morpheus explains what the hell is going on.

(And if you don't know what movie I'm talking about, then go back to your Commodore 64 and forget about being a part of modern culture.)

When Morpheus gets ready to put the plug in Neo's head, he says, "This is going to feel...[pause for drama]...a little weird."

That's what life is going to be like for awhile on Planet Atlanta Brave now that Bobby Cox is no longer the team's manager.

When Cox took over the Braves for the second time I was in the eighth grade. I now have four children. That's a lot of life phases (puberty, college, realizing that a political science degree is useless) that have been accompanied by seeing Bobby limp up the stairs, put his hand on his elbow and wave to the bullpen, then limp out to the mound to retrieve the idiot who couldn't get three outs.

Next year, Fredi Gonzalez will be occupying that spot.

Bobby Cox was not a brilliant tactician. Timing was not his thing. He was like the city council that waits until after a fatal accident to put up a traffic light at an intersection that everyone drives through thinking, "Someone is going to get killed there one day." (Cases in point: Brooks Conrad, Greg Norton, Mark Wohlers.)

Motivation was his thing. Not the rah-rah, poster board type of motivation, but the subtle, tacit variety that told a player that if he didn't do things right he was letting the team down.

We have a pretty good idea of how Gonzalez will do things. That's why he was hired. But it's going to be strange the first time a player speaks out in the media against him (or, worse, if he speaks out against a player – something Bobby never did).

Bobby Cox in the dugout was the last strand of the old golden guard – the final man in the ongoing curtain call that has now seen all the vital cogs of the glory days exit one by one. It was a cast that included Dave Justice, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Leo Mazzone, John Smoltz, John Schuerholz, Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Chipper Jones (if, in fact, his career is over) and now Bobby Cox.

And as anyone who has seen a stage performance can attest, the last man in the curtain call is always the biggest star.

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